Copyright Law and the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts
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Copyright Law and the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts

Alina Ng

The American Constitution empowers Congress to enact copyright laws to ‘promote the progress of science and the useful arts’. This book offers the first in-depth analysis of the connection between copyright law as a legal institution and the constitutional goal of promoting social and cultural advancement.
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Chapter 5: Landscaping the Legal Terrain

Alina Ng


I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led. Thomas Jefferson As it had in Britain, the new copyright system in the United States provided an effective way for authors and publishers to make profits from the sale and distribution of literary works. Not surprisingly, then, as new technologies developed to increase social access to these works and alter the industry status quo, copyright owners would seek wider legal rights to assert greater control over creative works. As this chapter makes clear, technological developments would once again lead to legal changes as right holders lobbied for laws to protect commercial interests and industrial footholds while diminishing the expectations of authors and society in terms of new ways to use and produce creative works facilitated by those developing technologies. As a result, the subsequent expansion of copyright law has enlarged the subject matter of protection from literary and artistic works to audiovisual and architectural works to cover works that are more utilitarian (as opposed to expressive or artistic) in nature, such as software and computer programs. The expansion of copyright law has also broadened the exclusive rights granted to right holders to provide them with greater control over how society and new authors are able to use creative works. The rights to prevent any adaptation or transformation of a preexisting work, known as the derivative rights,1 or the rights to prevent public displays2 or performances3 of creative works provide...

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